Around the world, comic book and film fans mourn the loss of Marvel Comics Icon, Stan Lee, who passed away Monday at the age of 95.
Through his stories, Lee became a household name, recognized for unconventional superheroes like Spider-Man, the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, and the X-Men who broke the stereotypical archetypes and offered subtle political commentary on society.
Born Stanley Martin Lieber to Jewish immigrant parents in New York City, Lee began his story writing career at the age of 17 at Timely Comics with illustrators and future co-writers, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Growing up during the Great Depression, Lee admired stories of heroes and their courageous, selfless acts of justice.
However, though many of his characters mirror these qualities, Lee’s characters were different, from those of the past. His unique collection of superheroes captured the world’s attention as for the first time, comic book characters were seen struggling with real-life issues from racism and substance abuse to discrimination and interpersonal conflict. Also, it should be pointed out that while much of his output could be qualified as progressive, it remains very U.S centric in nature with all that can entail culture-wise.
Like many comic book creators before him, the “Godfather of Marvel Comics” took his inspiration from current political events.
His timely presentation of the ‘The All-Winners Squad’- with a Hitler-hating Captain America; the Fantastic Four, and Spiderman offered soldiers a distraction and relatable heroes to admire while across seas during WWII, with a less stellar bit during the Cold War as well.
While, the 1966 character, Black Panther, who starred in the 2018 Blockbuster film, was inspired by the Civil Rights and black power movement. The story of a Black hero from the fictional African country of Wakanda reflected the changing social diorama and political environment of the time.
Various themes throughout the popular X-Men series touch on other controversial topics such as prejudice, oppression, feminism, fascism, homophobia, and people with disabilities.
As Lee told Times of Israel in a 2012 interview, he tried, “[E]verything I could think of! A full international platoon of all religions; and people said, ‘Oh, you can’t do that, Stan, the book won’t sell down south, or up north, or here or there.’ And it was one of the best selling books, which shows there’s something good about the public.”
His groundbreaking storytelling was key to the ascension of Marvel into a comic book titan in the 1960s and was the inspiration behind the multi-billion dollar film franchise. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2008, the highest government award for creative artists.